A HORNET is a large wasp, which is an appropriate club nickname for Watford because they are flying and dangerous.
Sean Dyche’s team went unbeaten in March, picking up 17 points from a possible 21.
If Pool had shown the same form they would be level with West Ham. Instead, in the same period, the Seasiders picked up eight from 21.
The upturn in form (victories over Burnley, Derby, Bristol City, Ipswich and Leeds, and draws with Coventry and West Ham, making them the Championship’s form team) has lifted the Hornets from the bottom end of the table to 11th, on 57 points and with an outside chance of gate-crashing the play-off party.
It represents some terrific management by Dyche, who has had to revitalise a financially-troubled club which began the season as favourites for relegation.
There was good reason for the pessimism. In the summer, manager Malky Mackay walked out to take over at Cardiff, and Watford sold key attackers Danny Graham and Don Cowie.
The latter hooked up with Mackay; 27-goal Graham also went to Wales, joining Swansea’s Premier League adventure.
With Will Buckley heading to Brighton and then, in January, frontman Marvin Sordell departing for Bolton, lesser men than Dyche might have given up.
But the 40-year-old, who was youth team coach at Vicarage Road before last summer’s promotion to the main role (his first management job), has held his nerve and guided the club up the league.
Asked about the possibility of a late run at the play-offs, Dyche is giving little away. “There are some big clubs fighting for a top-six place but we will see what happens,” he said.
He has good reason to play down their chances, with five of Watford’s final six games against teams in the top half of the table.
Much of the Hornets’ recent success has been based on a tight defence.
Tomasz Kuszczak, on loan from Manchester United, has made a big difference in goal, keeping three clean sheets in the last four games.
The back four contains former Seasiders loan man Carl Dickinson at left-back, while vice-skipper Adrian Mariappa – a January target for Newcastle and Wigan – may return after an ankle injury.
Watford have experience in the team in the shape of midfielder John Eustace (former Stoke) and striker Chris Iwelumo (former pretty much everywhere and responsible for missing that sitter in a Scotland shirt).
Main threat is Iwelumo’s partner up front, 23-year-old Troy Deeney. Signed from Walsall, Deeney had a tricky start to the season, scoring just three goals in 18 games. But he has been firing on all cylinders of late, hitting five goals in the last couple of months.
Only top two Southampton and Reading have won at Vicarage Road since October ... it is going to be tough for the Seasiders tomorrow, no doubt about it.